November 11, 2014 10:26:08 PM
STARKVILLE -- Sherise Williams is doing everything she can to make her presence felt this season for the Mississippi State women's basketball team.
If Sunday is any indication, Williams showed she has the potential of being just another player off the bench. The 6-foot-1 junior forward had 19 points, four rebounds, and three blocked shots in 21 minutes in MSU's 114-58 victory against Division II Arkansas-Fort Smith in an exhibition game at Humphrey Coliseum.
"Whenever my number is called I have to be ready," Williams said. "Martha (Alwal) is All-SEC First Team and co-defensive player of the year. She demands respect, and this is her team."
Williams had one of her best showings in a MSU uniform in part due to the absence of Alwal, who was the team's leading scorer last season with 14.9 points per game. Alwal also took the most shots on the team (396) a year ago, but she and classmates Kendra Grant and Savannah Carter didn't play against Arkansas-Fort Smith. As a result, other players had a chance to shine in their absence. Williams made the most of the opportunity by going 8-for-9 from the field in 21 minutes. She joined freshmen Victoria Vivians (20 points), Blair Schaefer (15), and Morgan William (11) in double figures. In fact, Vivians had five of MSU's 23 assists, including two to Williams in the first five minutes of the game to get the Bulldogs rolling.
"Victoria is going to draw a lot of attention from a lot of people," Williams said. "She is going to demand that respect early in her career, having someone ike me, Martha, and Chinwe be able to finish, we have to make those shots because people are going to help off her."
MSU coach Vic Schaefer said Williams also played very well in the team's closed scrimmage against Georgia Tech in Birmingham, Alabama. He said he hopes Williams can be part of a rotation at center with Alwal and sophomore Chinwe Okorie that hits 60 percent from the field and provides scoring punch and a defensive presence.
"Sherise is our bull in the china cabinet," Schaefer said. "She is that unbroken stallion that is constantly bucking, but she has a tremendous frame and athleticism out of the gym. She is just a tremendous athlete, and just again, every day trying to work on her skills. One day she looks like a million dollars and the next day she gets back to some of the old form and some of the old habits.
"I need Sherise. I need her to have a good year. Our team needs her to play well. We need her to fill a role."
Schaefer said Williams wants to please so badly that at times she gets ahead of herself and tries to do too much. He said he doesn't want Williams to have to worry about doing too many things and that he is his primarily concerned about her playing defense, rebounding, and being a physical presence in the paint.
Last season, Williams averaged 3.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in nine minutes per game. She credits associate head coach Johnnie Harris for working with her every day in pre-practice on post moves. Part of the development in Williams' game is the confidence she has developed in her left hand. Williams, who is right-handed, showcased that versatility by taking two passes from Vivians on the block and finishing them with her left hand.
The touch and execution she displayed on those moves has been inconsistent in her first two seasons at MSU. There have been times when Williams has shown an ability to jump through the roof to block a shot, but there also have been times when she has been too quick and too anxious to make a move that the shot has been off target or she has been called for traveling or an offensive foul.
Williams said Harris is a "big factor" in her looking more polished around the basket against Arkansas-Fort Smith. She knows Alwal likely will take some of those passes when she returns to the lineup. Williams also realizes, though, that the minutes are there for her to take if she can deliver consistent production, even if it is just rebounds and solid defense.
After complimenting Vivians and Alwal by saying they "demand respect," Williams was asked what she was going to do to demand respect, Williams started to answer before Schaefer spoke for her, "She is going to keep going 8-for-9. Sherise has worked really hard. She has made herself a part of the puzzle. She is going to be an option every night and she is going to play every night. ... Her thing has been consistency or inconsistency. We need to work on consistency, and next Friday night she needs to bring it."
Against Arkansas-Fort Smith, all 11 Bulldogs played and none of them played more than 22 minutes. Schaefer joked it will be even tougher on him to find time for everyone when Alwal, Grant, and Carter return to the lineup. With Okorie, who is in her first eligible season with the program, the Bulldogs don't have a lot of experience behind Alwal. That's where Williams' experience could play a key role, especially if she has honed her skills and doesn't try to do too much when she is on the floor.
"Sherise is going to have to play," Schaefer said. "Right now it isn't she has to play, it is I need to play her because she is productive."
n MSU will kick off luncheons Thursday: Schaefer and the Bulldogs will hold their first Hail State Hoops Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Mize Pavilion. Doors will open at 11:15 a.m. The cost per luncheon is $12, but fans can sign up for all seven luncheons at a cost of $70.
Other luncheon dates are: Wednesday, Dec. 3; Monday, Dec. 15; Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015; Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015; Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015; and Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015.
Fans who RSVP by phone at 662-325-0198 or email [email protected] will be registered for a chance to win women's basketball door prizes.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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